How Not To Do A Triathlon

How Not To Do A Triathlon

Over the past several years, when someone asks me what tips do I have for them about competing in a triathlon, my answer is always the same, "be prepared for everything. If you have everything in order, then you will be ready when something goes wrong and not panic."  BTW- Something always goes wrong.

On Sunday as the Chicagonow media relay team aka. Team FART (Fast Action response Team) got ready to go toe to toe with the other relay teams in the area(there were two), we were the opposite of prepared.  As a matter of fact we were so unprepared that it became comical.  Click here to read Cubicle Dad's version of our day, and here for Phil's, it's worth it!

We start with the registration for the race.  Apparently we were all registered as individuals in the Olympic distance, after battling some long lines by my teammates Cubicle Dad and Going The Distance (Dan and Phil) they were able to get that straightened out.  Know how far you are racing.

My "real job" is as a producer for the Discovery Network show Sins and Secrets, for the week leading up to the race, I had been filming around the city 12-15 hours a day.  No rest, eating fast food and a lot of time on my feet.  Nutrition and proper rest, gone!

We wrapped filming on Saturday night and I was in bed by 11:00PM, but couldn't sleep at all.  By 3:00, I was up and packing up for the race.  I had my race gear and the stuff I was going to wear on the set later that day, since I had to race and then take off immediately after.

I had packed everything I needed, but when I parked my car, I slipped on my Chicagonow softball jersey, being so tired, I didn't realize it wasn't my bike jersey until we were in transition.  No bike jersey, no way to hold water bottles, no hydration during the race.

While I was setting up transition, Phil showed up, with about the same amount of rest, and Dan who parked in Indiana, was texting away, trying to find the triathlon.  Again being so tired, I sent him the wrong way.  No pre-race plan or meeting point.

When we finally met up and left transition, we were calm and ready.  Then Phil announced he forgot his goggles and had to race back to transition to get them.  We waited in line to get rid of the ribs and Cheetos I had for dinner.  Bad nutrition, not checking for all your gear.

We were finally set and walking our comrade to  his first Chicago Triathlon swim start.  As we walked along the lake, we heard clapping and saw swimmers racing through the water.  After the 3 second delay, panic set in!  If there were racers in the water and we were in Wave #1, we just missed the beginning of the race!  Not paying attention to time and details of the race.

Like a amped up super hero with panicked eyes, Phil took off, fought through the crowds and managed to get into Wave #3, we were racing, sort of.

As Phil plunged into the lake, Dan and I scrambeled back to transition area, admitting to ourselves that we had made about as many mistakes as possible, without actually sleeping through the event.

After using my 2009 press pass to fight through the transition guards, we were set for Phil and the handoff, kind of.  Dan, waited for Phil as I went to get ready for the bike.  As I tried on my new Rudy Project Wingspan Helmet,(which is awesome BTW) I realized, that I had never actually tried on my new Rudy Project Wingspan Helmet and it wasn't adjusted for my size head!  No helmet, no race!  I quickly fumbled with the straps enough to just get it on.  The strap was so tight, I would barely open my mouth.  Not being able to breathe, bad.

Dan handed off the timing chip and I was off.  The goal, catch Andrea Metcalf and The Mayor, who both had a 6 minute lead on me. NOTE- The mayor wasn't in a relay, I just wanted to beat him.

I hopped on my beautiful new Trek Speed Concept 7.5 with Zipp 808 Firecrest race wheels and SRAM Red components and realized "I have never really raced in or been fit for this bike."  It is the ultimate racing machine, set up for an aggressive racing position, which I am not fit enough for at this time.  I wasn't able to stay in the aero position for long, which cost us time.  Always test your gear before you race.

Despite all that I got through the bike, in a descent time and Dan took off, in the wrong direction at first (Know the Course) but then busted his PR time in a 5K!

At the end of the day, we finished second or last in the Media Relay.  Dan and I both got to say "Hi Mr. Mayor," to the mayor and Phil got his Chicago Triathlon "cherry popped," in the swim.

Were we a mess?  Most definitely yes!  Did we do everything wrong?  Heck yes! Was this the most fun I've had at the Chicago Triathlon? Yes!

I got to introduce the worlds largest triathlon to two friends and experience it with them in an insane way.  Phil and Dan raced like gladiators.  This is one of the most terrifying swims in triathlon, and instead of locking up or pausing, Phil pushed his way through the rubber clad crowd and dove in like a man on a mission.

I have been running with Dan since the days when a 14 minute mile was an accomplishment, watching him pin his ears back and take off like a sweaty jack rabbit, brought a tear to my eye.

Sometimes it's not about winning or losing, it's about the journey and what you learn along the way.  We learned a lot about what not to do, but also that even in the worst situations, if you focus on the positive and believe in yourself you can do anything.


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  • That last sentence is the key. :)

  • Awww, I love this! I'm a drowner, not a swimmer, and bicycles give me 'roids, so I stick to marathon running, but I am just as much of a mess - yes, always have to get rid of the bad food you ate the night before in the half-hour Oui Oui line - then last year I overslept but still made the last wave which starts like half an hour after the seeded corrals - so I had to weave my way to the middle of the pack. Yep, all these races have their fond memories and good times, looking back, and it's most definitely about surviving & believing in your crazy self.

  • Glad to hear that you had a good time! I did my first triathlon this summer (South Shore Sprint) and realized how important the planning aspect is to your success on race day. Not just being fit or trained for the events, but your mental preparations and equipment/clothing/nutrition too. I was at the Chicago Tri as a volunteer at the water tables before the swim start, and it was amazing to see all the people coming through as well as the craziness of so many swimmers at once!

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